The UK needs a "warning system" to point out areas around the country at risk from unemployment shocks as old industries decline, business leaders have said today.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) has released the latest in its series of so-called minifesto papers, saying that a new expert committee should be formed to help drive regional growth.
The business lobby group has called on the next government to create the body to report back to the Business and Education departments on future threats to employment in specific local areas.
The committee would advise on skills and business-driven initiatives to ensure that areas don't suffer as their dominant industries downsize or close altogether, amid the rise of technology and shifts in work.
The group of experts would effectively serve as an early warning system to make sure rapid developments don't result in the sudden creation of pockets of high unemployment.
Andy Silvester, head of campaigns and deputy director of policy at the IoD, said:
"Britain’s uneven economic geography has plagued more than one recent government, but that it is hard is no excuse to give up.
"Nobody should ever apologise for the economic strength of London and the South East, but inspiring organic growth elsewhere in the country will go some way to ensuring our post-Brexit future is a prosperous one."
Throughout this election period, the elephant in the room is the challenge presented by new technology and automation.
None of the parties seem to have given much thought to how we should respond to ‘the rise of the robots’ but it may present the defining challenge of coming decades.
A committee to look at areas of particular vulnerability is one small step towards giving the issue the attention it deserves.
How the next government can boost regional growth, according to the IoD:
- Host regional cabinet meetings with each of the new metro mayors in the latter half of 2017, to increase the momentum around the new roles
- Encourage better export performance through Department for International Trade-led competitions for trade show funds
- Introduce stricter governance and transparency regulations for Local Enterprise Partnerships
- Continue and expand competitions between Local Authorities for funds to address infrastructure pinch-points
- Trial higher-rate relief within the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme to boost the availability of capital for start-up and scale-up businesses